Caffeine Is A Drug

Caffeine has its benefits!  A caffeine research overview shows us that the ‘drug’ boosts alertness and wakefulness, increases fat breakdown (lipolysis), and may lower the risk of Parkinson’s disease, among many other benefits. But like anything even water excess consumption  can  be a bad thing. The reality is caffeine is everywhere not just in a ‘cuppa’. Caffeine is in Teas, pills, power drinks even with CBD (touted to give a focused burst energy).

‘Caffeine Use Disorder’ is actually a recognized mental disorder!  Your doctor can find it listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5)  2013 update to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a diagnostic tool published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).’* I must share that there is a  Journal Of Caffeine Research that has been around for over 40 years. 

Point of this blog is to share how the diagnosis of this condition is made. Presence of at least 3 of the listed findings within a 12 months period. They are:

1. a strong desire for, an inability to cut down on caffeine consumption

2. continued use despite knowledge caffeine has adverse effect on your body. For me it brings on atrial fibrillation an abnormal heart rhythm that can can cause stroke. 

3. presence of withdrawal symptoms when stop use. These include: headache, fatigue or drowsiness, dysphoria, trouble concentrating, and even flu-like symptoms.

4. dependence like with any substance, more is needed with time. You will develop physiological and behavioral tolerance. The body get used to it so caffeine no longer keeps you awake, nor causes diuresis (urinates allot) and the blood pressure doesn’t increase from consumption. Isn’t the body amazing – it adjusts.

5. failure to meet commitments – work, school at home. 

6. continued use despite evidence of caffeine abuse causing interpersonal problems include arguments with a spouse about the consequences of caffeine consumption, resulting medical problems, or cost.

Our society freely accepts open use of this drug – Starbucks on every corner is the best example. It is a legal drug.  You may not know but it has many medical uses, examples include it’s use, IV to delay a baby’s delivery also to wean premature infants off ventilators.

Don’t Be Faked Out By Food Labeling Tricks, Part II Trans Fat & Decaf

What you eat defines you or at least your health! This week I will share hidden trans fats in our foods. Despite deemed no longer safe to consume, it still is very much present in our food supply. Read how again we are faked out when it comes to trans fat and ‘decaf’.

Hidden trans fats

Back in the day, the food industry said trans fat was a healthy alternative to butter and lard. The FDA declared them no longer safe to consume, which greatly reduced their use. But the partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs)—found in foods like margarine, coffee creamer, chips, and more—are loaded in dangerous trans fatty acids. Medically they raise LDL (bad cholesterol), lower HDL (healthy cholesterol) levels, so therefore we are left with an increased risk for heart disease and diabetes.

Sadly in the US, they’re not gone from the food supply. FDA spokesperson Dani Schor explained in an interview with MDLinx that some PHOs are approved as food additives, and food manufacturers may still obtain approval for certain uses of PHOs in foods. On top of that foods with less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving are listed on the nutrition label as “trans fat, 0 grams.”

Furthermore, all liquid vegetable oils that have been “deodorized” during the refining process—to give them their bland taste that consumers want—contain some trans fat, according to a blogpost by Guy Crosby, Ph.D., a food chemistry researcher and adjunct associate professor of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan’s School of Public Health. Another fake out these trans fats is not included in the product’s labeling. These oils include the four most popular ones consumed in the United States—soybean, corn, canola, and palm.

Eating foods with even small amounts of trans fat regularly can add up to a dangerous amount with time. So what to do? 

Don’t be faked out choose oils, select extra virgin, first cold-pressed oils from reputable, high-quality sources. Scan ingredient lists for the words “shortening,” or “hydrogenated” oils. If you are eating out avoid deep-fried foods.

Need to pay special attention to the ingredients lists and labels for PHOs when it comes to: 

  • Shortening/margarine
  • Microwave popcorn
  • Packaged snacks like chips
  • Baked goods or doughnuts
  • Ready-to-use dough or frozen pizza
  • Fried foods, including french fries and chicken
  • Coffee creamer

There are some ‘good fats’ take time when you can to check out this article.

The lie of ‘decaf’

Believe me when I say the food industry is not required to clearly list the amount of caffeine per serving on the nutrition label. Yes, the most used drug in the world is not ‘controlled’. And you are correct coffee is the most common way it gets into our bodies. The debate of is caffeine good or bad for your health has been going on for decades. Read my blog on bladder cancer and caffeine. Forgetting about the add ons, sugar, cream mocha – by the numbers Mayo Clinic says, up to 400 mg of caffeine per day is safe for most adults—that’s roughly the amount of caffeine in four 8 oz cups of brewed coffee or about 8 cups of black tea. A rough estimate is about 100 mg of caffeine in a cup of coffee and 50 mg per cup of black tea. safe caffeine consumption means no more than 400 mg per day. A greater amount can result in anxiousness, insomnia, rapid heart rate, stomach upset, headache, and horrible illness. Toxicity causes seizures that can occur at the consumption level of 1,200 mg of caffeine.

Caffeine is contraindicated for patients taking certain medications, have certain heart irregularities to the rhythm. Also, the National Institute of Health ( NIH) advising pregnant women to limit or skip even moderate caffeine consumption. Yes, this comes out of a recent study published in JAMA which found that consuming even small amounts of caffeine—equivalent to half a cup of coffee per day—was associated with lower birth weight. And as you know the present-day rage is adding caffeine to many popular foods and soft drinks. Many thankfully list the amount of caffeine. Red Bull seems early on (1987, Austria) to jump-start one’s energy with 111 mg of caffeine per can (12 oz.). Check out a past blog on the cardiac effects of caffeinated drinks. The most caffeinated drink on the market is ‘Spike‘ coming in at 350 mg caffeine in a 16 oz can. For more on the top ten caffeine drinks check out this article. Don't Be Faked Out By Food Labeling Tricks Part II

“Decaf” doesn’t mean caffeine-free and cups can quickly add up. The Starbuck website lists the caffeine content of its decaf coffee at 25 mg per 16 oz cup. Espresso drinks, even if a  decaf “shot” can contain up to 16 mg of caffeine, according to a study published in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology. Most espresso drinks use at least 2 shots, meaning a decaf espresso drink can have as much caffeine as a can of regular Coca-Cola (34 mg for a 12-ounce can). And don’t think the Mocha syrup, does not add more caffeine – it does!

The best way to avoid caffeine? Choose iced or hot herbal tea. 

One Size Does Not Fits All

Nobody argues the body does need adequate hydration. As for most things ‘one size does not fit all’.

Should we have 8 glasses of water a day? Probably a good idea if you are an active healthy adult or a growing child.

Health condition, diet, activity and how our kidneys work- urine output – factor in. Losing water (ex. sweat, diarrhea) means you need more. Folks with heart failure and kidney disease have to monitor and limit their intake, so yes intake of water is personalized!

Listen to your body it talks to you – you’ve heard me say this often, well here same applies. Thirst ‘signals’ from our body include not urinating in 2-4 hours and dark-colored urine (although many medical conditions can cause this). Yes, whenever you feel thirsty you had better drink fluids.

Be smart, you know you are out for a hike so over hydrate and carry fluids, conditions and weather can changes.

Note: Caffeine, ice tea is not water, sure it helps but carries complicating facts, furthermore caffeine is a diuretic!

Bladder Cancer On Rise

Bladder cancer is an increasing trend, in this short blog I want to  pass on some the info for you to consider:

-The 6th most common cancer for an age group in the US

-160,000 ages 50-79 living with this cancer

–  very time drink caffeine take an equal amount wat of to avoid bladder cancer carcinogens

–  According to, certain jobs place one at risk: painters, hairdressers, machinists, and truck drivers.

– working manufacturing rubber, leather, textiles, and paint products increases risk

–  incidence varies by race – whites 2 x greater than African Americans

–  family history will predispose

–  arsenic in drinking water

–  herbal supplement –aristolochic acid 

–  dehydration, not drinking enough water, do not wait till you are thirsty! Women need 9 cups of water a day men 13. A cup is 8 oz. or 250ml.

–  bladder cancer tends to be more aggressive in women, postmenopausal higher risk factor, add smoking (1/2 of all bladder cancer is attributed to tobacco combined with early age of menopause <45 inc.)

–  risk 4 x if smoke 2 x if stopped 30 years ago 90-95% is the papillary type

Skipping Breakfast – BAD

An increasing trend to skipping breakfast (20-30% of adults) over recent decades correlates with the increase in obesity. It is unclear but is it the chicken or the egg paradox?

Skipping breakfast was associated with atherosclerotic buildup in a Spanish study*, with light breakfasts also tied to subclinical plaque formation. A balanced breakfast with nutrients and energy generating foodstuff will perhaps include eggs, yogurt, oatmeal, fruit, wheatgerm and caffeine. Again diets are tailored to individuals needs, restrictions and medical illnesses. It is best to eat a nutritious balanced breakfast before ten AM local time

Definition of a light breakfast (comprising 5% to 20% of daily calories), correlated with plaques in neck (carotid) and groin arteries.  A pattern follows if one skips breakfast is this unhealthy beginning have negative dietary effects for the rest of the day according to the authors. They also state it is a ‘marker for a general unhealthy diet or lifestyle, which in turn is associated with the development and progression of atherosclerosis.”

Note: Caffeine intake up to 400 mg/d is not associated with adverse health effects according to latest research.


*Source Reference: Uzhova I, et al “The importance of breakfast in atherosclerosis disease: insights from the PESA study” J Am Coll Cardiol 2017; DOI: 10.1016/j.jacc.2017.08.027.



Energy drinks with herbal or chemical ingredients along with a high content of caffeine can have different effects on the electrical functioning of your heart than plain caffeinated beverages do. A study on energy drinks involving healthy military personnel measuring blood pressure and doing ECGs showed changes in heart function starting 2 hours after consumption.

The electrical time it takes to for the lower chambers of the heart to recharge after each beat in order to beat again is called the “QT interval”.  The study originally published in medical journal*, showed a delay of 10 milliseconds occurring in personnel who consumed energy drinks. (The FDA labels drugs causing a 6msec QT interval delay with a warning.) The effects were short term, but are they cumulative? 

Please do not assume herbal/natural preparations are automatically safe. Our bodies are unique; therefore what is good or safe for someone may not be for you.


*John P. Morrow, MD, of Columbia University Medical Center in New York City,


Coffee Is Good for Your Heart!

Out of South Korea comes a study that correlates a positive effect on the heart for coffee drinking young MH900448673and middle-aged people. Those without any signs of heart disease who drank 3- 5 cups of coffee a day faired better in scanning for calcium deposits (higher calcium score more plaque blocking the heart artery). Researchers measured the calcium deposits in the coronary arteries (heart) of individuals with an average age of 41.3 (followed for 2 years) and found statistically significant lower scores pointing to the benefits of caffeine. Noted was that coffee increases insulin’s sensitivity. The insulin made by the pancreas acts in an improved manner on the blood glucose (sugar). In addition, coffee decreases the bad LDL-cholesterol in the blood.

Hence the inverse relationship between caffeine consumption and associated cardiac risk was found correcting for age, sex, as well as education level, exertion level, smoking, family history, alcohol consumption, and diet of fruits, vegetables, and red and processed meats.

 IMPORTANT: More than 5 cups/day had a detrimental effect on calcium scores.

Valentine Day Chocolate

A guiltless gift for your Valentine is chocolate. But first read this blog! Take a cocoa bean remove the natural fats (cocoa butter) and cocoa powder is left for making ‘chocolate’ goodies. Rich in flavanols, a strong antioxidants many of us indulge!

Several studies point to lowers rates of cardiovascular risk – lowers blood pressure, increase ‘good’ HDL cholesterol. Research also suggests another benefit – memory improvement.

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 9.12.33 AMDon’t forget chocolate products especially bars contain caffeine as much as 56mg in Ghirardelli’s Organic Green & Black 85%. A chocolate bar’s  ‘Supplemental Facts‘ do not list caffeineYou’ll be impressed how much iron is contained but it is poorly absorbed. However, when you add Vitamin C to a cocoa powder drink children were found to absorb more iron.

The dark side no pun intended is contamination with toxic heavy metal cadmium (probable carcinogen). Lead is also a toxin in cocoa bars. Like lead and other heavy metals it accumulates in your body throughout life.

Cocoa comes the ‘bar’ in powders, capsules supplements and nibs and my favorite – traditional bar. Read a recent blog that offers more detail on this site.

Happy Valentine’s Day!




Energy Drinks And Your Heart

Many have speculated that energy drinks are not safe. This is a multibillion-dollar industry with over 500 different ‘buzz’ drinks worldwide.

Background– FDA says caffeinated soda cannot have more than 20mg/100ml. (=3.4 0z.). Meanwhile energy drinks usually pack over 32mg caffeine into every 100 ml. If you missed my earlier post this year on coffee have a quick read.NO-Energy-Drinks

Caffeine is only one of the stimulants in these drinks. Taurine* (amino acid) another stimulant additive is believed to be the culprit in the increase in ER visits (20,000 nationally in 2011) linked to ‘buzz inducing drinks’. After reports of deaths and a non-fatal heart attack (MI) in users the FDA is looking into their safety.  As expected  some labels (including Monster Energy and Rockstar Energy) have sidestepped FDA oversight by rebranding their products as beverages rather than as dietary supplements. As beverages they would be exempt of F.D.A. reporting requirements. As if  deaths and injuries are not enough,  then they can be purchased with food stamps, but on the good side then ingredients must be listed on the can.

How do these drinks impact our hearts? No brainer additives are known stimulants and we all know what ‘stimulants’ can do. Doctors at the University Bonn, Germany studied 31 healthy men and women (yes a small sample, avg. age 28) by performing a cardiac MRI before and an hour after drinking an energy drink (containing 32mg caffeine/100ml & 400mg/100ml of taurine).

 Results – there was no change in the heart rate, blood pressure but a significant increase in ‘peak systolic strain’ and ‘peak systolic rate’.  ‘Strain’ occurs as stress is applied and measures heart’s ability to contract. But what does this mean short term or long term to the heart?

Interestingly researchers isolated a caffeine only drink and did not see the same ‘strain’ effects. So is it the taurine or a synergy of caffeine with taurine? Did you know Rockst*r Energy Drink contains 1000mg taurine in 8 oz.?

Use your brain and consider what you are putting into your body! Always read labels, please!


* Taurine occurs naturally in our bodies and can increase release of calcium in muscles including heart muscle.